Radiocarbon dating uses the naturally occurring isotope Carbon-14 to approximate the age of organic materials. Often, archaeologists use graves and plant remains to date sites.Since its conception by Willard Libby in 1949, it has been invaluable to the discipline.
This is only because it is well calibrated with objects of known age.
However, a little more knowledge about the exact ins and outs of carbon dating reveals that perhaps it is not quite as fool-proof a process as we may have been led to believe.
At its most basic level, carbon dating is the method of determining the age of organic material by measuring the levels of carbon found in it.
The older an organism's remains are, the less beta radiation it emits because its C-14 is steadily dwindling at a predictable rate.
So, if we measure the rate of beta decay in an organic sample, we can calculate how old the sample is. Question: Kieth and Anderson radiocarbon-dated the shell of a living freshwater mussel and obtained an age of over two thousand years.
In last Tuesday’s lecture, radiocarbon dating was covered briefly.